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Claude Lenfant to Retire from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

For Immediate Release:
July 3, 2003

Bethesda, Maryland Claude Lenfant, M.D., Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the Institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced his impending retirement, effective August 30, 2003.

NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., said, "Claude Lenfant is a talented and capable administrator, and a first-class scientist. Under his leadership and guidance NHLBI supported and conducted research that has benefited millions of people. His departure will be a significant loss."

"Claude Lenfant has made a lasting impact on his institute and on the health of Americans and people all over the world," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "He has steered research that has vastly increased our understanding of some of the most important health conditions. Equally important, he has recognized the importance of understandable health information and motivation for the average person, in addition to top-notch science for the professional. He deserves all our thanks."

The longest-serving director of the NHLBI, Dr. Lenfant assumed his position in July of 1982. Previously, he was director of the NIH Fogarty International Center (1981-1982) and director of the NHLBI Division of Lung Diseases (1971-1980). Dr. Lenfant came to the NIH from the University of Washington, Seattle, where he was Professor of Medicine and Physiology and Biophysics.

During his tenure at the NHLBI, Dr. Lenfant oversaw development and completion of major clinical trials that have had widespread impact on the ways in which disease is treated and prevented. They have addressed such diverse topics as therapies to interrupt the course of heart attacks and life-threatening arrhythmias, pharmacologic and lifestyle interventions to reduce blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels, surgical approaches to improve lung function in severe emphysema, and strategies to alleviate the recurrent pain of sickle cell disease.

In the area of basic science, Dr. Lenfant led the NHLBI into the modern era with landmark initiatives such as the Programs of Excellence in Molecular Biology, the Programs of Genomic Applications, and the Proteomics Initiative—all of which brought cutting-edge, multidisciplinary resources to bear on complex problems.

One of Dr. Lenfant's most tangible legacies has been programs of professional, public, and patient education that have had national visibility and impact. Under his stewardship, the NHLBI launched its National Cholesterol Education Program, National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, and National Heart Attack Alert Program, as well as special initiatives focused on obesity, sleep disorders, and women's heart health. All of these activities reflect his oft-repeated belief that the goal of scientific research improved health for the public should always be paramount.

Dr. Lenfant has been recognized, nationally and internationally, for his exceptional leadership and achievements. His honors include receipt of the American Medical Association's Dr. Nathan Davis Award, the American Heart Association's Gold Heart Award, the Association of Black Cardiologists' Legends of Cardiology Award, the American Society of Hematology's Outstanding Service Award, and the National Sleep Foundation's Person of the Year award. He has received honorary doctorates from the State University of New York (Buffalo), Wake Forest University, the Medical College of Ohio, the University of Medona (Italy), and the University of Montpelier (France).

He was elected to fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians (England), membership in the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, the USSR (now Russia) Academy of Medical Sciences, and the French National Academy of Medicine; and honorary membership in the Royal Society of Medicine (England), the French Cardiology Society, and the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He is the author or co-author of 228 scientific publications, and executive editor of 178 volumes for the series of monographs, "Lung Biology in Health and Disease." On May 3, 2003, Dr. Lenfant delivered the 113th Shattuck Lecture before the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Medical Society, only the fifth NIH scientist ever to be so honored.

Independent of his NIH position, Dr. Lenfant serves as president of the World Hypertension League, which seeks to develop, disseminate, and sustain internationally applicable methods and programs for hypertension control. In his retirement, Dr. Lenfant intends to expand his efforts to address the growing problem of chronic diseases in the developing world.